Posts Tagged ‘ ADOPTION ’

Unless you have all the facts…

Advertisements

Dad tells son (11) he’s adopted

An adoptive dad (who wishes to remain anonymous) reveals how telling his son the truth about his adoption has changed their family dynamics for the better…

I have two adopted children: my daughter, now 18, was adopted at the age of ten, and I adopted my son, now 11, when he was just three years old.

My daughter knew her biological father and had some contact with him before I adopted her, but they never really enjoyed a close relationship. After I adopted my daughter, she decided to break contact with her biological father altogether, even though I never discouraged their relationship. I wanted to make sure that she knew she could have contact with him if she wanted to.

My son did not know he was adopted until recently, when we decided he was old enough to know the truth. I was extremely reluctant to tell him about his adoption at first because he and I had a very difficult relationship, and I had also heard about so many adoptees who found out late in life about their adoption and the pain this caused.

I guess one will never know for sure when it’s the perfect time to tell someone that he/she is adopted; my wife and I made our decision based on our son’s emotional maturity level and readiness to hear this sensitive information. We asked a close friend, who is a preacher and counselor, to facilitate the process for us, as we knew our son would need access to someone he could trust when this life-changing information was revealed to him.

We approached the process as a family, and included my adopted daughter to support our son and be there for him should he have any questions or concerns. Although it was difficult at first, we believe that we can build a better family structure without having to pretend that we are something we are not.

My wife and I both suspected that Nathan (name changed) knew I was not his biological father, but I don’t think he understood his adoption and the complexity of the situation. When the facilitator revealed the information to him, he was not surprised, but became very emotional. That he was not surprised confirmed that he suspected the truth, but the complexity of the situation made him emotional.

As we spoke, the facilitator continually checked that Nathan understood what we were trying to tell him by asking him for feedback and examples. One comment Nathan made was that he knew I loved him, because of what we do and share together and that if I didn’t love him as my child, I would not have to do what I was doing for him then.

As a psychologist, I appreciated the facilitator’s effort to continually “check-in” with Nathan during the session to ensure he was okay and reassure him of the love our family’s and my, as his adoptive father, love for him. Nathan cried a lot while we talked, not because of his adoption, but because his mother was very emotional and he was the focus of attention in a serious matter.

This session firstly made me feel that I can be a father without having to pretend that I’m someone I’m not: I could be Nathan’s adoptive father and no longer pretend to be his biological father. Some may wonder why this is so important, and it’s difficult to explain, but it was important for me as I don’t have any biological children. Although I wanted to, I have come to accept that I will never have any. Pretending that Nathan was my biological child constantly reminded me of the fact that I do not have biological children and that I was living a lie.

Also, pretending to be someone I wasn’t caused me to push the children away, as indirectly and subconsciously I blamed them for my not having biological children. However, by telling and living the truth of being their adoptive father, I can make peace with not having biological children and be the real father to my children that God intended me to be.

For Nathan, not much has changed; he does not blame anyone or feel unloved. His standing in our family remains the same and he still regards me as his only father. He has not asked about his biological father and we don’t think he will for a while yet, but we believe that when he does, he will be ready to understand more about this complex situation. For now, he knows that he is adopted, and that this doesn’t change our love for him – he is our son, regardless of who his biological father is.

Should he want more clarity and information on his biological father later in life, we will support his decision, as we did with our daughter. We will never prevent our children from contacting with their biological fathers if they choose to do so.

Unexpectedly, telling Nathan about his adoption has positively changed my relationship with my daughter. We communicate better, trust each other more and talk about things we never could before. I believe that although my daughter knew about her adoption, she also never realised how much she gained by having a “real” father who cares for and loves her, and how much having a father and mother who love each other has changed her life for the better.

What was discussed with Nathan was not a surprise to her, as she already knew about it, but I believe that what her and her brother’s adoption has meant to them has helped to change her previously negative and antagonistic attitude and behaviour.

For my wife, the biological mother of our children, this session has helped her to realise what I was going through as a “secret” adoptive father. Her relationship with Nathan has also changed for the better – previously she always tried to protect him from the truth, to the extent of becoming over-protective, which hampered Nathan’s emotional growth as he was overly dependent on his mother.

I firmly believe that the truth has set us all free from pretending and living a lie. Now we are free to be who we really are and to build on a family unit regardless of the past. Finally, we can start building a family based on truth and trust. Because it’s not the blood in your veins, but the love in your heart that makes you a family.

Waiting to adopt? Please don’t give up

“My earnest plea to all prospective adoptive parents is don’t give up. The adoption procedure is fraught with difficult obstacles but see it through. God has a special place in His heart for people who take care of orphans (James 1:27).”

I was addressing a group of around twenty at a meeting of the Pretoria Adoption Support Group. I wasn’t scheduled to speak. I had only been invited to sell copies of my book, the proceeds of which were to be donated to the Southern Africa Bible College.

But as I listened to the discussion going on around me, I began to sense a rising sense of frustration among the audience, comprised primarily of pre and post adoptive parents.

The topic under discussion was the latest amendments to the South African Children’s Act 2007 and how these affect the adoption process.

I listened as an experienced adoption social worker explained the rationale behind the extensive waiting periods prospective parents must endure before a baby is placed with its adoptive family, and how every decision made by a social worker has to be done with “the best interests of the child” in mind.

It wasn’t long into her presentation before someone in the audience posed a question, which was quickly followed by another, and another. Although the social worker responded well to each one, it soon became apparent that the Act, although an improvement on its predecessor, remains fraught with flaws.

Under the new Act, babies only “become adoptable” after 60 days, the social worker explained. After this period, the birth mother has an additional 30 days in which to rescind her decision to give up her baby. Factor in the time required by the Act to search for birth fathers, and that they are also afforded 30 days to give their consent to the adoption, and it can be months before a child is eventually placed in their adoptive parents’ arms for the first time. For abandoned babies, the waiting period can be even longer, as the Act affords the birth mother, father and even extended family members ample time to come forward to claim the baby. By then, adoptive parents may be faced with serious bonding issues with their adopted child.

“Government adoption agencies expect us to wait months before placing a baby in our arms, so who can blame couples for choosing to work with private social workers who give them a newborn baby immediately?” one father asked (I later learned that he and his wife are waiting to adopt their second child). Everyone could hear the exasperation in his voice and as he spoke other parents nodded their heads in agreement.

I could not remain silent. As an adoptee, I felt a responsibility to speak for the orphaned, unwanted and abandoned babies. After obtaining permission from the group co-ordinator I stood up after the final presentation and faced the group. I knew that all they wanted to do was give a loving home to an orphaned, unwanted or abandoned child, but complex legal procedures made it so difficult for them to do so.

“After listening to everything that has been said today I cannot help but feel thankful that I was adopted under the old Children’s Act, which enabled me to be placed in my mother’s arms when I was a few days old and stay with them while the adoption process was finalised,” I began.

“That said, part of me also wishes I had been adopted under the new Act, because then my birth mother would have been legally required to name my birth father on my original birth certificate and that piece of my life puzzle would not still be missing to today.

“What this has made me realise is that sadly, even though it is intended to protect children from being exploited, the Children’s Act will never be perfect. It is formulated by imperfect humans who will never be able to devise a law that will satisfy the needs of all the parties involved.

“My parents also went through a difficult screening process and had to overcome numerous obstacles in order to adopt me. But they did it. They never gave up and today I am so thankful, because were it not for their perseverance I wouldn’t be standing here today pleading with you not to give up hope.

“The adoption procedure may lengthy, complex and frustrating, but stick with it. Orphans all over the world need you and God will bless you richly for your selfless act of love.”

 

Double vision: an adoptee’s view of family

Every once in a while I stumble across something from a fellow adoptee that sums up exactly how I feel about my adoption, but conveys these emotions so well that I would rather “copy and paste” their thoughts (with permission, of course) than try to echo them with my own sentiments.

Like the following blog by Rebecca Hawkes, adopted daughter and adoptive and biological mother – I think what she says is simply brilliant…

I sometimes wish I knew what it would be like to not be adopted. If you are not adopted, please think about that for a moment. Think about the things that you take for granted. Think about the simple, natural connection between you and the people to whom you are related. Even if your relationship with your family is not 100 per cent positive, there is a quality of your connection to them that you have probably never questioned; they simply ARE your family. They didn’t choose you; you didn’t choose them. You are connected to them by the interwoven threads of shared experience and biology.

For me, as an adopted person, things are not so simple. It occurred to me recently that being adopted is a bit like having Strabismus, or “Wandering Eye,” a condition in which the two eyes don’t quite work together as they should to create a single, unified picture. As a metaphor for the adoption experience, this translates to two separate visions of family. One eye sees the world through the lens of experience and upbringing. This is the “nurture” lens, connected to a definition of family as those people with whom I grew up, who cared for me, and shared the experiences of family life with me. The other eye is the lens of “nature,” or biology. It sees family as those people who share my genetics and genealogy, who are related to me in spite of our lack of shared history.

Some people with Strabismus compensate by favoring one eye over the other, and some adopted people do so as well, metaphorically. There are adoptees who will tell you that their real family is the one that they grew up in. Period. There are even those who express distance from, and disdain for, their biological mothers by referring to the them as “incubators.” On the other end of the spectrum are those who refer to their adoptive parents as “adopters,” rather than parents, rejecting the adoptive definition of family in favor of a strictly biological one. But many of us find ourselves in the middle, struggling to hold two (at times contradictory) definitions of family simultaneously, striving to create a single, unified vision from these two divergent points of reference.

Can I say that my life would have been better if I hadn’t been adopted? Would I be happier or psychologically healthier today? I can’t say that with any certainty at all; who knows where that unknown path would have led. Most of the time I am able to accept, and even celebrate, my life for what it is and to see the duality of adoption as an enrichment rather than a detraction. Usually, I am thankful that I have the love of not just one but two families. But to be honest, I’m not always in that place of acceptance and gratitude. Sometimes I wish that instead of families, I simply had “a family”.

Follow Rebecca’s blog at http://rebecca-hawkes.blogspot.com/

Reader review: “I could not put your book down!”

Kirsty Simmonds writes: “I absolutely loved your book; I could not put it down. It is an amazing and courageous walk you have lead, Aurette. You dealt with it so frankly and honestly and have faced your absolute worst fears! You have come through victorious – I was inspired, moved to tears and in joy for you – so proud of how you pushed through and refused to accept nothing less than the absolute truth, even if it meant shattering any “feel-good illusions”.

I was truly affected, moved and impressed. You truly are an inspiration – you have lived as you speak and abide in the Word. Your life bears such great testimony to how necessary and how wonderful faith in God is an can keep us through our darkest trials. Without Him we will be truly lost to the darkness and despair. Thank you for being so brave to write this all down and share your unique life story. So many will be saved beacuse of your faith and ability to put into words what so few would have been able to.

Letter to a birth-mother

In celebration of my birth-mother’s birthday this month, I am publishing this letter (with permission) from adoptee Shefalie Chandra, who wrote to her birth-mother this last Mother’s Day. Her words really moved me and echo so many of my emotions, which is why I wanted to share it… 

Mother…

I am really sorry that I never got to reach the stage in my life and yours where I could have emotionally adult responses and choices in a relationship with you. I am sorry that I never actually got the chance to have a relationship with you, except mostly in my head where I am writing all the scripts and narratives.

I wish I could have got to the place where I could have shown more respect and care for you, without having to change you into who I thought I needed or wanted, or become critical and judgmental.

I can now see that I expected you to be almost perfect in meeting my relational needs as a mother. I never got to be able to appreciate you for who you are/were as a whole individual and person in your own right. For the good and bad, and
not for what you could give me or make up to me, filling in the voids.

I have been learning how to deal with all the fallout of being relinquished and all that comes with being fostered and adopted and being raised by people who don’t reflect back to me who I am.

I am learning to take responsibility for my own thoughts, feelings, goals and actions, so that when I am under stress, I don’t fall into the victim mentality or blame game as I used to.

I am also learning to state my own beliefs and values to those who disagree with me, and that includes how others perceive adoption and birth-mothers and I don’t have to become adversarial.

I am learning to self-assess my limits, strengths and weaknesses and be able to freely discuss them with others who are swimming in the same waters. I am even swimming into the emotioanl world of others, meeting them at their place of need without getting sucked in and down. I think that means Mum, that at last I am becoming more emotionally mature; like more of a grown-up adult adoptee, and not the emotional infant or child I once was.

I wish you could have known me as this person. I wish I could have helped you learn to swim in these waters as well with me, but I couldn’t. I didn’t know how to then, so what I am going to do is try to help other people and I hope
you would have liked who I am becoming.

Oh, just one more thing, Mum, something else that I am learning to hear and know that I am loved by Christ, and that I have nothing to prove. And so that means as well, Mum, neither do you.

Happy mothers day Elizabeth, I hope you can hear me, because I mean it.

Shef

Crisis looms for South Africa’s orphaned and vulnerable children

Focus on adoption as a protection mechanism during Child Protection Week – 29 May to 2June

South Africans are in a state of shock and denial in respect of the crisis facing our orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children, with the numbers of children who are in desperate need of a family of their own, steadily increasing.  Current estimates of children who may benefit from adoption in South Africa are between 1.5 and 2 million in 2011.  This coupled with a steady decrease in adoption rates is placing huge strain on alternative care systems, which in principle, should only be temporary solutions.

During Child Protection Week from 29 May to 2 June, the newly formed National Adoption Coalition will launch Addoption, a programme designed to draw attention to the plight of South Africa’s adoptable children and provide accurate process information to birth and prospective adoptive parents. Addoption was born as a centralised, unified hub complete with a website and call centre to provide information and guidance for birth and prospective adoptive parents in terms of the adoption process, in fact for anyone in South Africa wanting to know more about adoption as an option. In addition it also provides an extensive database of adoption professionals across South Africa.  This is the only resource of its kind that provides both adoption information and database resources in one, consolidated format. For the first time in our country’s history, the South African adoption community, including the National Department of Social Development, has taken hands to form a National Adoption Coalition – a mandated and unified structure that promotes and builds awareness of adoption, builds partnerships and collaboration across the adoption community, shares best practices and acts as a mediator and champion. “The key focus of Addoption is to educate and create awareness among South Africans about adoption as an option when deciding how to deal with a crisis pregnancy, how to become an adoptive parent, or how to extend a family through adoption.  Our role is to assist the adoption community as a whole to create awareness and hence encourage the use of their services,” explains Sue Krawitz, a spokesperson for the National Adoption Coalition. “The ultimate aim is to create positive and permanent change in the lives of the children of South Africa, to ensure a sustainable social solution for this country.  Adoption is treated with great mistrust for a number of reasons in this country, and yet, it has been proven globally to be the best permanent solution for children outside of the family.  The low prevalence of marriage in SA and resulting vulnerability of single mothers, the weakening of the traditional extended family, and the impact of poverty and HIV/Aids, has led to an alarming increase in abandoned babies.  There is also a preference for foster care vs adoption, with nearly 40 per cent of adoptable children in foster care currently in South Africa.  This is not ideal, as it is not a permanent solution for the child, and gives them no sense of belonging or long-term stability,” explains Sue. As outcomes of the programme, Addoption is aiming to create national awareness of adoption as an option, change adoption perceptions, attitudes and beliefs across communities and empower community opinion leaders to be advocates of adoption. One of the biggest challenges facing anyone in a crisis pregnancy or for anyone interested in adopting, is finding consistent and accurate information about the process and who to go to for assistance.  Through the Addoption call centre on 0800 864 658 and the website at www.adoption.org.za both birth parents and adoptive parents will have access to consistent, positive adoption communication and engagement as well as immediate access to correct adoption information. South Africa faces many unique challenges When one considers the alarming statistics, it soon becomes clear that the Addoptionprogramme and the National Adoption Coalition have vitally important roles to play, in averting a very real and imminent crisis.  There are over 18.8 million children in South Africa, almost two-fifths of the population.  The estimated number of adoptable children exceeds 1.5 million, roughly eight per cent of all children, yet currently only 0.2 per cent are adopted.  Despite the high number of children deprived of parental care, the annual number of adoptions has remained low and static over the past five years, and showed a notable decrease in the 2008-2009 year. There are a number of unique challenges that South Africa faces in finding adoptive parents as a child protection mechanism:

  • South Africa is a diverse country, with different cultural groups who have unique cultural beliefs and practices impacting adoption.  Up until now, adoption has not been “Africanised” to be more culturally appropriate and relevant.
  • There is a shortage of prospective adoptive parents, especially from the African community.
  • Adoption has not received widespread promotion at a national level.
  • Recruitment of prospective adoptive parents is currently carried out in an ad hoc, localised manner by adoption agencies and its reach is limited by lack of financial support.
  • The information on adoption is sparse and poorly distributed.
  • There is a widespread lack of knowledge and understanding regarding the unique dynamics of adoption, the typical issues confronting adopted children and their families, the risk factors that undermine adoption, and the factors that stabilise, strengthen, and preserve adoptive families.
  • The growing number of abandoned babies and children remains a serious concern, with many birth mothers unaware of their options, including adoption, or where to find reliable, non-judgemental counselling when faced with a crisis pregnancy.
%d bloggers like this: